Archived entries for Andre Boisclair

2005 Hall of Fame and and Shame

None of these people really qualify for a Hall of Shame. It’s more like a Hall of Embarrassment, or Hall of Painful Obviousness, instead. In no particular order:

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Christy Clark, for living in the ‘burbs while running for mayor of Vancouver and thinking she could get away with it. Called an opportunist, public backlash of her residency skirting ensued and so when she eventually she bought a place in the city, no one really believed her spokesman when he said, “she wanted to move into Vancouver no matter what.” In the end, it didn’t matter, because she lost.

Beverly Desjarlais, a member of parliament from northern Manitoba, was repaid by her Liberal Party constituents for her stance against same-sex marriage when they did not renominate her for the January 23 federal election. She has been forced to run as an independent.

Michael Ignatieff, for trying to run for federal office in Canada while living in Boston, repeatedly claiming he was a resident of Toronto, all the while telling the Harvard Crimson that if he loses the race, he wants to be back in Boston. And of course, I add him to this year’s Hall of Embarrassment for misspelling “Ottawa” in numerous places in his online curriculum vitae. The egregious error has since been corrected.

Ralph Klein, the chain-smoking premier of Alberta and former mayor of Calgary, for so relentlessly battling the encroachment of same-sex marriage into Texas North. Still, I give him credit for throwing his hands up in the air in June and declaring, “There are no legal weapons. There’s nothing left in the arsenal…We’re out on a lurch.”

Brian Mulroney, former prime minister of Canada, for being so uncouth when talking to the man who eventually wrote his biography. If you didn’t hate him when he ran the country, you do now. One columnist called the book a “tale of anger, betrayal and braggadocio so loud and lewd that ‘unguarded’ and ‘confession’ are an understatement.”

In some cases, my Hall of Fame might be better termed the Hall of People Pissing Others Off and Not Really Giving a Damn:

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Gerald Tremblay, the dorky and sometimes flamboyant mayor of Montreal, for breaking royal protocol and giving Princess Margriet of the Netherlands a peck on the cheek when she visited the city in May. “I don’t know if she was amused, but I can tell you Her Highness was not upset,” her handlers told the press.

Scott Brison, the openly gay Cabinet minister from Nova Scotia, not for being an openly gay politician, but for so willingly admitting to the press that he is engaged to his boyfriend of only SIX MONTHS. But never mind. Scott, we still love you, and we look forward to invitation to the wedding, and the divorce proceedings.

Frank McKenna, Canada’s ambassador to the U.S. and former premier of New Brunswick, for telling the press mere days into his appointment that “the United States is a wonderful creation.” However, “the government of the United States is in large measure dysfunctional.” So much for being diplomatic.

Peter Jennings, for helping import dozens of Canadian journalists to the U.S. all the while infuriating those who believe Canadian reporters shouldn’t be delivering news about America to Americans. An ABC colleague told me, “In a television world that too often focuses on celebrity and tabloid tales and seems to prize the anchorman who yells the loudest, Peter refused to play along. He fought aggressively to keep international news on his newscast. He believed Americans needed to know what is going on in the world beyond their borders.”

Andre Boisclair, the openly gay and formerly drug-using leader of the Parti Quebecois, for giving me something to write about that appeals to American gay men otherwise uninterested in anything related to Canadian politics. A friend or two of his also deserve credit for feeding me gossip about him — which, I might add, I have not posted on the Internet.

The year of the gays

In looking back at 2005, the MontrealGazette has declared it the year of the gays…and swingers…and morality:

“Together, the swingers club ruling and the gay marriage law represent a quantum shift in the standards of public morality. Both would have been unthinkable a generation ago, but in both cases it was largely a matter of the law catching up with prevailing social trends and attitudes.”

“But while there was a significant slide toward permissiveness in social ethics this year, there was an equally notable countersurge toward puritanism in political morality. Despite court rulings and promulgation of laws, many Canadians still view sex clubs and homosexual marriage as forms of social corruption, but the greater public preoccupation this year was with political corruption [AdScam].”

“Support for gay marriage is higher in Quebec than elsewhere in the country, and the province is reputed to be the swinger capital of Canada, with an estimated 200,000 active swappers. Most Quebecers saw no problem with Andre Boisclair, who is not only gay but a confessed cocaine abuser, becoming leader of the party most likely to form the next provincial government.”

Talkin’ about Andre

Believe it or not, I was at a bar in Boston last night when two separate people approached me to talk about Andre Boisclair. What a great drinking topic. My faith in gay men the world over has been restored!

Meanwhile, criticism of Andre, and worries over his rise to power, continue to mount. National leaders are fretting at his overwhelming popularity, worried that the Quebec separatism movement will gain significant ground under his leadership. Many are still in disbelief that he was even elected, because as the Star said today, it has been years since “a leadership candidate triumphed in the face of such a solid body of negative editorial advice.”

Liberals blast Boisclair

andre1117Just one day after his election, Andre Boisclair has already been taking hits — is that the wrong word to use for a former drug user? — from Canadian government leaders who contend his past transgressions render him unfit for office. Quebec’s premier, Jean Charest, “mused about whether Mr. Boisclair could ever have the moral authority to govern, considering he had admitted to using cocaine while serving in Cabinet,” according to today’s National Post.

Many say the radical element in the party could lead to an untimely downfall, for the new leader, even though his reign just began. “I wish him good luck,” said Heritage Minister Liza Frulla, a former Quebec provincial cabinet minister, “especially since his party is a party that disposes of its leaders like old Kleenex.”

Given his admission of past drug use, “Could Mr. Boisclair become a minister of public security tomorrow morning? Could he be a justice minister in a government?” said Claude Béchard, Liberal Minister of Economic Development. “The answer is no. So in the end, could he become premier? It’s the same answer.”

While the media has hyped Boisclair’s youth and his dynamic persona, many outspoken detractors are surfacing to remind people that “the charming young man isdedicated to breaking up Canada,” as Maisonneuve points out.

‘Boisclair crushes PQ rivals’

andre_rallyAn unprecedented 76 percent of voters participated in the Parti Quebecois leadership race that last night ended with the telegenic and openly gay Andre Boisclair being declared winner after trouncing his top opponent nearly 2-to-1. The Globe and Mail‘s headline this morning said it all: “Boisclair crushes PQ rivals” while the Gazette of Montreal called his win “breathtaking.”

Interestingly, the race to lead the Quebec sovereignty movement was never about Boisclair’s homosexuality (in fact, two of the country’s three biggest papers didn’t even mention today that he’s gay), but it never really focused on the issues facing Quebec, either.

At his victory rally in Quebec City last night, Boisclair, a former provincial politician and a Harvard grad vowed to push for an independent Quebec in the coming years. “Let us all work together to achieve the country of Quebec,” he said. “More than ever, tonight everything becomes possible.” Today the premier of Quebec, Jean Charest,offered Boisclair first dibs at running for the vacant National Assembly seat in the district that represents Montreal’s Gay Village.

Maisonneuve magazine’s MediaScout, a daily wrap-up of what’s leading in the Canadian press, explains the Boisclair victory and the press coverage for laymen: “The votes have been tallied and the results are in: a coke-sniffing homosexual has been voted the new leader of the Parti Québécois thanks to a long-haired chihuahua and a bush by the name of Gilbert Laplante. Well, at least that’s the impression a casual reader of today’s papers might walk away with.”

Andre wins the race for Quebec

In an unsurprising victory that proved even gay former cocaine users can win political office, Andre Boisclair tonight won the Parti Quebecois leadership race with 54 percent of the votes and now faces the difficult task of leading his separatist party through the next provincial election and through any future referendums aimed at splitting Quebec from Canada.

The Canadian Press reports that Boisclair “rolled over his rivals to become leader of the Quebec sovereignty movement Tuesday, brushing aside criticism of his past cocaine use and doubts about his resolve in the face of crisis. A charming political dropout with a million-dollar smile, Boisclair easily beat the prim and proper Pauline Marois, a 56-year-old with vast cabinet experience.”

PQ LEADERSHIP-BOISCLAIR

Everyone and everything is voting in Quebec

marois1115It seems the fine men and women of Quebec aren’t the only ones voting in this week’s Parti Quebecois leadership race, which wraps up tonight with a victory party in Quebec City. A long-haired Chihuahua named Pixelle Daoust and a houseplant named Gilbert Laplante (get it?) were also able to vote this week. No word on whether they voted for the openly gay Andre Boisclair or his opponent, the more matronly Pauline Marois (shown here).

“The system is riddled with potential fraudulent practices that are difficult to monitor,” one source told the Globe and Mail, while the PQ’s spokespeople say the voting procedures are “foolproof.”

Voting begins in Quebec

boisclair_1114Members of the Parti Quebecois began telephone voting on Sunday for their new party leader, who could one day hold the reins of the province and ultimately lead an independent nation of Quebec. Voting continues into Tuesday with Andre Boisclair and Pauline Marois believed to be the only viable candidates in a field of eight candidates.

The Gazette makes an obvious but interesting noteabout the significance of the vote: “The Parti Quebecois is about to make history by becoming the first major Quebec party to choose either a woman or an openly gay man as its leader. On the eve of the first of three days of voting by telephone by party members, all signs point to the latter.”

“Boisclair, 39, has danced around questions over his cocaine use when he was in cabinet in the 1990s while Marois has run a charmless campaign that has failed to capitalize on Boisclair’s troubles or to otherwise inspire Quebecers.”

The Canadian Press, on the other hand, has a more tough-talking summary of the race and its implications: “The Parti Quebecois begins voting Sunday for a leader who is meant to have the courage and conviction to unite the fractious separatist movement, break up Canada and create an independent Quebec.”

The politics of being gay

andre_boisclair_111105_2The forthright columnist Richard Burnett has an excellent (if a tad racy) piece on Andre Boisclair, whom he outed in Montreal’s Hour newspaper in 1997. Burnett says the outing arose when Boisclair, who was then the provincial minister responsible for human rights, “reneged on his promise to give $20,000 to Montreal’s cash-strapped anti-gaybashing support group Dire enfin la violence.”

When Boisclair came out on his own, without the prodding of the press in 2000, he said, “I will not allow anyone to define my identity or group I belong to. I associate with my friends, my family and Quebec. Not with the gay community. I have never chosen to live in the [gay] community. And I’m not about to begin today.” Wow! Them’s fighting words! (He later said he would not utter such a comment today.)

The Hour piece focuses on what Burnett calls a “predilection on the part of the mainstream media to lasciviously report on the lives of gay public figures, or those perceived to be gay, when it suitably titillates straight readers.” Among others, he mentions Scott Brison, who recently announced his engagement to his boyfriend.

“What we are dealing with here, then, are the politics of being gay. In other words, if you’re Ralph Klein and have a couple drinks, you’re a (lovable) character. If you’reRené Lévesque, you can kill a man while drunk driving and get away with it. But if you’re gay, you’re going to get raked over the coals.”

“As for myself, would I vote for a gay, former coke-snorting politician? Frankly, I couldn’t care less.”

“But voting for a man who takes no pride in being gay?,” Burnett writes, taking a direct hit at Boisclair, “I’d rather die.”

Coke joke flops

michaelle_jean_1107It’s hard to get respect as a former cocaine user. Michaelle Jean, the Governor General of Canada, is under fire for joking recently that if she were to host lunch for Andre Boisclair, the former cocaine user running for the leadership of the Parti Quebecois, “We can have sandwiches and coke. Well, should Andre Boisclair, decide to attend, it will be coke for sure.”

Jean’s comment even upset her sister who wrote an editorial in a Montreal paper over the weekend saying, “You have disregarded your duty to respect the strictly symbolic nature of your position. You have also had the bad taste to put your feet into political waters. The next time you are asked to make a toast, avoid speaking out of turn and mocking … all those who aspire to make Quebec a sovereign country.” Ouch.

Meanwhile, there is just one week left before a new PQ leader is chosen. One newspaper headline says “It’s war in the PQ.” Though Andre Boisclair remains the front runner, his opponent Pauline Marois says the “Boisclair campaign is in full panic mode,” as her camp tries to make up for lost ground.

Campaign Rule 1: Be No More Virtuous Than the Voters

andre_boisclair_1025The New York Times is talking about the PQ racetoday! “Quebec voters are a famously tolerant lot. They elect many gay and lesbian politicians, and they seem to think that political leaders who don’t admit to having smoked marijuana are lacking in joie de vivre. One premier in the 1970’s ran over and killed a homeless man and then was re-elected. So nobody was particularly surprised when Andre Boisclair, a 39-year-old gay man who banters about his sexuality on television talk shows, became the instant front-runner in the leadership race to head the separatist Parti Quebecois.”

“The real test of Quebecers’ broad-mindedness began last month, however, with a published report about Mr. Boisclair’s lively night life in Quebec City – complete with excessive drinking and cocaine use – while serving in the provincial cabinet in the 1990’s. The article described “wild weekends at the end of which you can’t recall where you left your rented car.”

Andre Boisclair’s admission of cocaine use has prompted an interesting new poll. According to it, “Canadians appeared to be fairly relaxed about any vices their politicians may have indulged in – but only up to a point…only 26 per cent of Canadians would have refused to vote for a politician who had smoked marijuana…But a large majority, 75 per cent, would have withheld their vote from a politician who had taken hard drugs like cocaine or heroin.”

Andre got lucky

The former leader of the Parti Quebecois has said that if he had known about Andre Boisclair’s problem with cocaine, said he would have cut short Boisclair’s political career. “It would have been an extremely serious matter,” Bernard Landry told reporters yesterday. “I would have asked for an investigation. I would have had to be informed of the facts and I would have made a decision based on the facts.”

Marois admits she used drugs, too

marois_pauline_1017I’m palpitating. Andre Boisclair’s rival Pauline Marois has admitted that she has also used drugs in her past. OK, so maybe it’s not that exciting: she said she tried marijuana once, when she was 19. She inhaled, but she didn’t like it. While Andre’s popularity soared after he admitted using cocaine when he was younger, the same probably won’t happen for the more matronly 56-year old Marois, who is trailing in the polls. “Political cartoonists have made fun of the situation, portraying her as suddenly turning into a drug addict in a bid to save her campaign,” the Gazette reports today.

Sex, drugs, and raking over coals

sam_sullivanAndre Boisclair may have it bad after admitting to using cocaine, but for a study in contrasts, check out revelations from the mayor’s race in Vancouver, which is being called “dirtiest, nastiest and most lowdown campaigns this city has ever seen.”

Recent reports that candidate “Sam Sullivan once gave an acquaintance money to buy crack cocaine, and then allowed him to smoke it in the back of his van, and that he also paid for a prostitute’s $40-a-day heroin habit in an effort to rescue her from the sex trade have barely registered on the scandal meter,” the Globe reports.

“It really is mind-boggling,” said Jim Green, the man running against Mr. Sullivan for mayor of western Canada’s biggest city. “If it was me who’d been accused of doing that the media would be all over it. It would be a huge story. Yet no one’s making an issue of it with Sam. I don’t understand why.”

Sullivan has attempted to justify his actions by saying he gave the money to the cocaine addict so he could see just how a drug deal went down in the gritty Downtown Eastside. As for the prostitute, all he was trying to do was show some compassion, he insists.

“I was just trying to help so she didn’t have to degrade herself. Same with the other guy and the cocaine. He was going to be taking the drugs regardless. The question was what lengths he would go to in order to get the money. That’s what I was trying to stop.”

“Vancouver is light years ahead of the rest of the world when it comes to addiction,” Sullivan said. “We don’t think of it as criminal; we think of it as a sickness. We think of it as people who need our compassion and help.”

Marois gaining on Boisclair

pauline_marois_1012She’s trailing Andre Boisclair in public opinion polls even after he admitted to having used cocaine, but PQ leadership candidate Pauline Marois got a much-needed boost when 100 prominent Quebec women endorsed her recently. Most of the women who back the second-place candidate are over 50, but as Montreal’s Le Devoir points out, that may be all she needs to win the sovereigntist party’s leadership race. You see, 60% of the PQ members are over 50, and the average age is 54. Andre Boisclair, on the other hand, is a ripe 38.

One supporter said of the woman who might become the province’s first female premier, “Do we have to change sex to get votes in Quebec? When it’s a man who pushes the (political) machine we say he has ambition and we’re behind him because he has charisma.”

Something tells me she doesn’t like him

lysiane_gagnonJust days after she accused Andre Boisclair of having essentially bought his graduate degree from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, columnist Lysiane Gagnon continued to press the PQ leadership candidate hard in her weekly Globe and Mail column [sub. req.], this time focusing on his admitted cocaine use and the risks that continuing revelations about his life could do to him and his party. Whatever your stance on the candidate, her piece is quite good, and I find myself struggling to quote only these few selections:

“Mr. Boisclair’s use of coke can hardly be described as a youthful folly. He was well into his 30s — and a cabinet minister to boot — when he took coke. Although it appears that Mr. Boisclair used coke on an occasional basis as a recreational drug and was never addicted, the episode shows an appalling lack of judgment.”

Still, despite his admission, he has never been more popular. “There’s something strange going on in Quebec. Since he admitted he snorted cocaine while he was a cabinet minister in the last Parti Quebecois government, Andre Boisclair, the front runner in the current race for the leadership of the PQ, is more popular than ever. Not only is he still way ahead of the other candidates, but — and this is what is puzzling — the latest polls show that he’s actually gained even more public support.”

“It’s hard to guess how the PQ members will vote on Nov. 15 when they’re called to elect a new leader, but what is sure is that the general public is siding with Mr. Boisclair. Maybe it’s because of Quebec’s Catholic tradition: He confessed, so he should be absolved. Maybe, also, it’s because people love to hate journalists — and, for a while, journalists seemed to be after him, so Mr. Boisclair was able to portray himself as a victim of the wolf pack.”

“To be sure, Mr. Boisclair is a likeable candidate. He is bright, handsome, fit and personable, and he is a fresh face at a time when people are fed up with old-style politicians (he’s also gay, which, in many circles, is an asset rather than a handicap because it is an additional touch of modernism).”

Cocaine, mob connection, and now accusations of no degree?

andreboisclair_1005Andre Boisclair, already busy defending himself against those who call him a coke addict with mob connections, is now being forced to defend the validity of his university credentials. In La Presse yesterday, prominent columnist Lysiane Gagnon said Boisclair could not have obtained a master’s because he is a university dropout and did not have the prerequisites. She incorrectly described the JFK as an institute and not a graduate school of the university and alleged that he simply bought himself a degree by attending a school where little work is expected of its students.

On the stump yesterday, Boisclair waved his Harvard diploma and told supporters, “it’s Madame Gagnon who did the false representation.” The Gazette reports that the Boisclair team believes “unnamed federalists are trying to bully reporters into cutting corners in their research in order to destabilize the 39-year-old leader’s campaign because they fear the stir he is creating among Quebecers.”

Andre soars in polls, despite cocaine admission

andre_1003Bloomberg is reporting today that Andre Boisclair’s poll numbers continue to soarfar beyond his top opponent’s, even in the face of his admission that he has used cocaine in the past.

His confession “boosted his prominence and may have helped his image by making him look honest,” said Claude Gauthier, an analyst at CROP Inc., a pollster in Montreal. “It surely isn’t for what he had done but rather for the way he dealt with the issue.”

People in Quebec “respect the private lives of their politicians,” said Christian Dufour, a professor at Ecole Nationale d’Administration Publique in Montreal. “Had this happened anywhere else in North America, Mr. Boisclair would have been crucified politically.”

And now, a mob connection?

There are only 45 days left before a new leader of the Parti Quebecois is named, and they could be difficult ones for leading candidate Andre Boisclair if allegations of impropriety continue to surface at the rate they have this week. First, it was his youthful whippersnapper attitude and his cocaine excesses, and now the 39-year old gay politician is being questioned about possible ties to organized crime.

At a University of Laval forum in Quebec City this week, a student asked, “We know that in Canada consuming hard drugs is a crime. Did you have links with organized crime?”

“The answer is no. N-O, no,” Boisclair said.

The new face of Quebec

jean_boisclairOne day after her swearing-in as governor general of Canada, hopes are high for Michaelle Jean, though many skeptical that her goal of bridging the country’s protracted English and French divide can truly be fulfilled. She is one of two relatively young people who are primed to take lead of the new Quebec. Andre Boisclair, the telegenic and openly gay candidate for leadership of the PQ is the other.

In the Globe today, a columnist writes of the pair’s potential impact on the province and the nation: “The two new faces of Quebec, André Boisclair and Michaelle Jean, will have a lot to say about where that province will be in a few years. One is the new voice of separatism, the other the new voice of unity.”

“The debonair Mr. Boisclair, gay and hip, is the latest phenom of Quebec politics. A political past lit up with cocaine has not stilled his ascendancy. There is even hope among the sovereignty class that he may be able to cast a spell like René Lévesque and Lucien Bouchard.”

“Many assumed that the cocaine revelations would derail him. But the ultra-liberal social bent of Quebeckers — at least toward their sovereigntists — appears to know few boundaries. Snorting cocaine as a cabinet minister in the Bouchard and Landry governments doesn’t even merit a slap on the wrist.”

“It’s not that Mr. Boisclair, first elected at 23, has had anything intriguing to say. One columnist labelled him a cliché factory. But Quebeckers, looking for a new champion after a run of old warhorses (Jacques Parizeau, Mr. Bouchard and Bernard Landry), have taken to his youth, vitality and charm.”



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